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US Department of State Daily Briefing #27: Thursday, 2/20/92

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: Washington, DC Date: Feb, 20 19922/20/92 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Subsaharan Africa, Caribbean, Eurasia, Southeast Asia Country: Israel, Lebanon, South Africa, Haiti, USSR (former), Vietnam Subject: Terrorism, Mideast Peace Process, Democratization, POW/MIA Issues, Regional/Civil Unrest, United Nations, Security Assistance and Sales, Cultural Exchange 12:04 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MS. TUTWILER: I have two questions you asked Richard yesterday that we did not have answers to. I do have the answers today.

[Announcement: Secretary's Meetings with Ambassador Shoval and Faisal Husseini]

Secretary Baker will be meeting with Ambassador Shoval tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. here at the State Department, and the Secretary will be meeting today here at the State Department at 5:15 with Faisal Husseini. Q Margaret -- MS. TUTWILER: Yes, Barry.

[Israel/Lebanon: US Urges Restraint by All Parties/Loan Guarantees Status/Responsibility for the Deaths of Three Israeli Soldiers]

Q All that shooting in Lebanon. Does the State Department have some observation about it? MS. TUTWILER: Observation? Q Remarks, comment? It's your -- I'm passing the ball to you to -- MS. TUTWILER: Got it! Q -- just kick it as far as you want. MS. TUTWILER: We got it. Q It's a softball. The hard ones will follow. MS. TUTWILER: We are deeply concerned about the renewed cycle of violence in southern Lebanon. We have made high-level demarches to those involved to urge the exercise of maximum restraint in order to bring the violence to an end. We have made those demarches to Israeli officials, Syrian officials and Lebanese officials. It is my understanding -- which is one question you may ask -- is this going to -- or have we been informed that anyone has changed their plans on coming here for peace talks on Monday. Quite the opposite. Everyone has told us this morning that they are indeed coming to the third round of talks beginning here on Monday, February 24. Q What do the Syrians have to do with it? MS. TUTWILER: Well, as you know, the Syrians have very close relations with the Lebanese, and it makes perfect sense to me that when we are making our views known about the violence that is escalating there, that it's perfectly natural that you would also raise your concerns with the Syrian Government. Q Have they been physically involved so far? MS. TUTWILER: No. Not that I know of. Some of our information this morning that is coming in on this incident we're still getting. Some of it is still confused. We are, after all, a long way away, and we are trying to get it. So I don't have a lot of literal specifics of what went on there. But I have no evidence as of this briefing of that. Q Who would you expect to intercede with Hizballah? MS. TUTWILER: To intercede with them? Q Well, I mean, you say -- I mean, you know, they're not a government. They're very much involved in the fighting. I presume that you would like them to show some restraint as well? MS. TUTWILER: Well, of course. Q Well, how do you get your message to them? MS. TUTWILER: I think the message doesn't need to be gotten to them. I think the message is well known. It's been a constant, steady message for years that you're well aware of, and we have been very vocal from this podium. Other governments are being very vocal about it. As you know, the U.N. Security Council yesterday passed a resolution prior to this incident this morning. Everyone that I'm aware of is calling for a cessation of this increase in violence. Q And that's definitely your overriding theme, but let me ask you on a sub-theme here. Does the State Department have a position as to whether Israel is justified in carrying out reprisals for attacks on Israeli villages, or do you have some other suggestion like "take it to the U.N.," or something? Israel is retaliating. MS. TUTWILER: I understand that. Q Is that a justifiable action? MS. TUTWILER: I don't want to condone any violence, Barry, no matter by whom. Innocent people get caught in crossfires. What we are urging all parties to do is to please do what they can to have this escalation, this violence, this cycle, stopped. Q But can you tell us whether -- does the U.S. Government believe that the Israeli action is an act of self-defense, or it is other than an act of self-defense, like aggression or whatever it's between. MS. TUTWILER: That gets me a little bit back into what Barry was asking me -- either condoning or condemning. I am condemning the violence by all. As I said, we have only got fresh reports this morning, and all of our reports are not in. I would point to the Israeli Government itself -- it is my understanding -- has said that this was a small armored element that went after an alleged Katyusha launching site. The Israeli Government, it is my understanding, has said this activity is limited, both in terms of space and time. It is also my understanding that the Israeli Government has said that they intend for this operation to last about 24 hours. Q Have they told you, going by their public statements, or have they also told the U.S. Government such? MS. TUTWILER: Their public statements do not contradict what they have told us in private. Q Margaret, let me push this reprisal thing. I mean, this is not taking sides. I'm asking the United States -- U.S. State Department -- you recently, this government, has been involved in some very violent activity in Iraq, for instance, and innocent people were killed there as well. MS. TUTWILER: That's right. Q Sometimes people take up arms. Without arguing the case either way, does the State Department see any justification for Israel responding? Is your position they have overreacted, or do you think they should have simply not carried out any activity in Lebanon? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not going to characterize that for you, other than to continue to say that we are deeply concerned about the escalation of what appears to be rising violence. I am not going to make a judgment on if this was justified, non-justified. You know very well, as we do, there have been rockets that have been launched onto Israeli soil off of Lebanese soil. I'm not going to, you know, make any judgment on that either. We're making a judgment on the overall situation there, and we are, as the United Nations, as I have seen other nations this morning, calling for restraint on everyone. Q Margaret, is it your feeling that incidents like this poison the waters of the peace talks? MS. TUTWILER: I will only state that, having rechecked this morning, all parties have told us this morning that they will be here on Monday for the opening of the third round of the talks. Q I know. But do incidents like this make it more difficult to reach any sort of agreement or to have any sort of comity at these talks? MS. TUTWILER: I can't prejudge for you, John, what instructions these representatives of their governments are coming with. I don't know how it is influencing the governmental decisions of the various entities that are going to be here. I would be being totally speculative for you. Obviously, any increase in violence in this very difficult situation, you couldn't characterize as helpful. But I think that it is worth noting that as of this morning they have all said they will be here on Monday for this third round. Q Margaret, the other day your office put out a statement -- MS. TUTWILER: Excuse me. So that would lead me to believe that they are very serious -- the representatives that are coming here and their governments -- about continuing these peace talks. Q Margaret, you say that the Department is deeply concerned about this escalating violence. The other day your office put out statements saying that the U.S. Government is seriously concerned about the use of American-supplied weapons by Israel in Lebanon. Do you take the further -- and you say you've raised this recently with Israel. Has it reached a point where you are going to express that concern by anything concrete? MS. TUTWILER: As you correctly point out, we put out a statement of United States law the other day which concerns not only Israeli use of American equipment, but it's my understanding of all countries where we sell equipment. I can tell you that as of today that, yes, we are discussing the matter with the Israelis, and that, as you know, under law should it be shown that it was not used as the law intended, then of course we would have to legally notify Congress. But by no stretch of the imagination are we to that point. We are simply doing what our law requires that we do, and it is nothing more than that at this point. Q And how would you -- MS. TUTWILER: Excuse me. Can I also remind you that under the law -- which you, yourself, said you've just read -- that the U.S. defense articles furnished to Israel under the Foreign Military Sales Program are governed by the Arms Export Control Act under which Israel is required to use such articles solely for internal security and for legitimate self-defense. Q So that's why it's very important -- Q [Inaudible] MS. TUTWILER: Sure. There are other reasons. Q It's a legal question. Therefore, it's important that you may be required to answer to Congress, if American weapons were used, whether this action was legal self-defense or otherwise. MS. TUTWILER: This is not something that you should be led to ratchet up at all. This is, as you know, a question that has been debated for any number of years: "What is a terrorist act?" "What is self-defense?" etc., etc. We are not -- not -- at that point at all. But at the same moment, under our law I would be irresponsible [not] to tell you that these types of things are, for lack of a better word, routinely raised as they should be under our law. But this is not something there's been a high-level demarche on, etc., etc. Q Margaret -- MS. TUTWILER: Yes, Mark. Q Does the United States have any particular concern about Israeli forces moving outside their security zone in southern Lebanon? MS. TUTWILER: It's my understanding that they had moved one mile outside of their security zone, and my understanding is that it was a small Israeli armored element that went after an alleged Katyusha launching site. Q And do you have any particular concern about that? MS. TUTWILER: I have a general concern over -- a deep concern over the violence. Q Margaret, does it concern you that they went across U.N. forces also in the process of doing that? MS. TUTWILER: That still is a little confused, and I cannot tell you with any total certainty exactly what has taken place there. We know that two UNIFIL soldiers were hurt. We do not know, and I cannot tell you at this briefing, if they were from IDF forces or there were other elements that got into this confrontation -- if it was the other elements that wounded these two gentlemen. We simply aren't in a position here to tell you, other than we know two were wounded. It got very confused, and we just don't have all the facts yet. Q [Inaudible] -- said this has happened. This situation is hardly unique. There have been other constructions from this podium over the years. I just want to try one more time. I hope I'm not belaboring the point. A construction has been Israel has a right to defend itself, and Israel has a right, as any nation does, to engage in hot pursuit in defense of itself. But its response was too much. It should have been restrained. You're not saying that, are you? You're not asserting that Israel has a right to go into Lebanon to retaliate for being attacked -- for Israeli villages being attacked. You're simply saying, "Let's be restrained about all this." MS. TUTWILER: I'm not denying that any country has the right, when attacked, to defend themselves. That's not -- what I'm not doing. What I am not engaging on, which I thought you were trying to get me to at first, was to make a judgment from this podium of the justification for what was done. I'm not in a position to do that today. Q Indeed. I was just asking you if you thought Israel is justified, and you haven't said either way. MS. TUTWILER: I haven't said either way, because I've also said about four times this happened this morning -- our morning D.C. time. We are still trying to get in all of our information, our cables, talk to people exactly. I couldn't answer this gentleman's question about who exactly wounded -- whose fire wounded the two UNIFIL people. So we're trying to get all the information ourselves. But I am continuously saying -- as the United Nations Security Council* said yesterday -- that we are deeply concerned about what appears to be escalation in southern Lebanon, in Israel, over the last several days. Q Has the State Department made a judgment -- have any evidence yet as to who killed these three Israeli soldiers on Saturday? The initial Israeli report -- I don't know if it's been changed -- was they attributed it to Fatah, to the PLO. It has nothing to do with Hizballah which is being hammered. * U.N. Security Council Presidential Statement MS. TUTWILER: I saw that. Q Has the State Department looked into this, and has it come up with any conclusions? MS. TUTWILER: If they've come up with a conclusion, Barry, I didn't focus on that this morning. I don't know. I'll be happy to ask for you if we have a conclusion. I don't know. Q There are two points here. I came in late, and I'm sorry if you've already spoken about it. MS. TUTWILER: That's no problem. Q Have the U.N. forces done anything to halt the firing of these rockets into northern Israel, and has the Lebanese army done anything about it? Has either party made any statement that this should stop? What have you got on that? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know, sir, that the United Nations has made a statement today. They made a statement prior to this incident yesterday -- the Security Council* did. It is my understanding as of this briefing there has not been a call yet for a Security Council meeting on this incident, so I'm just not aware that they have. But maybe the U.N. office in New York could maybe tell you if they have. I just don't know. Q I'm not talking about what the U.N. may say in New York. What I'm saying is whether the U.N. forces on the ground in Lebanon has done anything to enforce the peace and prevent the firing of rockets into northern Israel? And has the Lebanese Government done anything to halt this business? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not sure that I'm in a position here to answer for the United Nations forces on the ground in Lebanon and what they may or may not be doing to ensure the peace there. I believe they've been there since 1978. I think the Secretary General's office at the U.N. would be the best to answer that. Q Well, what about the Lebanese -- MS. TUTWILER: Concerning the Lebanese, the Lebanese, as you know -- President Harawi's government over the last many months has been, to the best of their ability, as you know, kicking out militias; have been trying to do a lot to get control of people who have been doing violent types of activities there on their soil. So I think that's all public knowledge, what they have been trying to do. * U.N. Security Council Presidential Statement Q In connection with all of this, there is a report to the effect that the State Department is trying to provide $400,000 for the training of some 37 Lebanese officers in the United States. That would be tantamount, I suppose, to training Syrian army officers. But what information do you have on that? MS. TUTWILER: I've never heard of that, and I'll be happy to look into it for you. I'm not familiar with it. Q Do you have any information on an incident this morning at the Jordanian border in which four members of the [Palestinian] group -- apparently not members of the delegation -- were turned back by the Israelis? MS. TUTWILER: Correct. My understanding is that it's all been resolved. The four members -- I believe the entire delegation is 70-something-plus people -- were going to Amman, not coming here. My understanding is the whole thing is resolved. Those four individuals, I believe, went with Sari Nusseibeh back to their homes. I can't promise they're back at their homes, but it's all over. Q Do we have a view of the fact that this happened? MS. TUTWILER: I don't yet because I don't know. We were made aware of the incident this morning, and then we were shortly thereafter made aware that it had been resolved and that's all I really know about it. Q Margaret, when you say "resolved," do you mean that they were allowed to leave or not? MS. TUTWILER: They resolved it in that the four that had been seeking -- it's my limited understanding -- to go onto Amman decided not to go onto Amman. Hanan [Ashrawi] and the delegation went onto Amman and crossed the bridge. Q Will Secretary Baker be raising the issue of the violence in Lebanon at his meeting tomorrow with Ambassador Shoval? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know. The purpose of the meeting, as you know, is a continuation of their discussions on the $10 billion housing loan guarantees. I don't know. Q Could you preview a little bit, if you want, what his message to Faisal Husseini might be? MS. TUTWILER: No. I think that would be really irresponsible of me -- Q Gee, I could almost do it. MS. TUTWILER: -- to do in advance of his meeting this afternoon with him. Q You must have some idea of what you want of the Palestinians at this point so far as the peace talks? MS. TUTWILER: Mr. Husseini requested -- I believe it was -- when did we get back here? -- Tuesday night around midnight through Ambassador Ross, could he come to Washington and see Secretary Baker. As you know, the Secretary has met with him numerous times, and the Secretary, obviously, sent back the message that, yes, he would, and we've scheduled it. So I really -- I don't want to preview it here. Q Margaret, on the loan guarantee, has the Department seen the GAO report on the functioning of the earlier $400 million housing loan guarantee which says, in essence, that the State Department has no positive control over whether these funds, in fact, were either directly or indirectly used in the occupied territories. MS. TUTWILER: I checked on that this morning. The answer is that, no, we have not received the report yet. When we do receive the report, we will obviously be reviewing it carefully. I've seen what Senator Byrd said, who apparently has seen the report. We just don't have it yet at the building. Q Without regard to the GAO report, does the State Department feel it has sufficient control over the use of those funds to guarantee that, in fact, they are not used to support new settlements in the occupied territories? MS. TUTWILER: It's something I haven't looked into in months concerning the $400 million housing loan guarantee that was -- what? -- about a year old now. It's just something I haven't looked into. I'd be happy to ask. As I said, we have not received this report. When we do receive it, we'll be reviewing it carefully. I literally have not looked into it. Q Margaret, in connection with that report, there was a press report to the effect that State Department officers refused to discuss this matter with the GAO people. Do you have anything on that? Has the State Department contributed anything to the Congressional Service report? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know, sir. I don't know what our legal obligations are. I don't know if we were asked. I don't know if we said we wouldn't. I know nothing about it. Q Can we find out before the Secretary testifies on Monday and Tuesday? MS. TUTWILER: I'll try. It should be easy to get an answer to.

[South Africa: DeKlerk Preoposes Referendum on CODESA/ US Support for CODESA Process ]

Q Margaret, do you have anything on President de Klerk's decision to hold a referendum for whites only to vote on the apartheid policy as a result of his loss in the special election -- MS. TUTWILER: Not a lot. We continue to support fully the Convention for a Democratic South Africa process as the appropriate forum for discussions on South Africa's future. The specifics of the transition to a new constitution are for the people of South Africa to decide among themselves. Q Can you go beyond that, please, or look into it because what he did today was very dramatic? MS. TUTWILER: I understand that. The view of the State Department on the specific thing of calling for a referendum is that it's an internal matter, and so our comment -- I can't go beyond -- I asked the very questions that I anticipated you might be asking me. It gets us right into getting into an internal matter. Q Aren't you concerned that this may slow the progress toward an integrated society in South Africa? MS. TUTWILER: I would think that it would be premature for me to make that type of judgment for you. This is something, as Connie accurately says, "dramatic" that he has called for. We are supporting the Convention for a Democratic South Africa; but the specifics, I have to leave to the South African people. Q And you're not afraid that he might have lost touch with his white constituents ? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not going to speculate like that with you. We recognize it was a dramatic thing that he did, and we are supporting the process. Q Just two others. On the vote itself yesterday, will you comment on that? MS. TUTWILER: No. Q And this arms [inaudible] sale? MS. TUTWILER: The what? Q It says the U.S. Embassy denied a report that Washington blocked a South African sale to Saudi Arabia. Do you have anything to go beyond that? MS. TUTWILER: No. Q The Haiti question: There are apparently more than 200 Haitian refugees who may be eligible for asylum who have HIV positive. Has the U.S. decided what it's going to do with them yet? MS. TUTWILER: It's my understanding they have not. As you know, there are -- I believe the correct term is "laws" that exist prior to this incident concerning immigration into our country. If you are HIV positive, it requires a waiver from our government. As I recall, maybe two years ago there was a conference, as I remember, I think, in Minnesota, and we did, indeed, as I recall, waive some individuals to come in here. It is true that the INS has a number of Haitians who have been found to have a plausible claim to asylum, and they also have tested HIV positive. The INS has not made a determination yet concerning their disposition. Q Does the fact that they are seeking political asylum make them any different from someone who is just simply seeking entry into the United States? Is that a factor? MS. TUTWILER: To be honest with you, I am not that familiar with INS rules and regulations. They would probably be the best person to answer that type of detailed question. I don't know. Q Who granted the waiver? Is that a Secretary of State function? MS. TUTWILER: I don't think so. (TO STAFF) Is it INS? The Attorney General is what Richard (Boucher) thinks. We'll have to check the record for you. Q Margaret, can you tell us anything about the next Baker-Kozyrev meeting? MS. TUTWILER: Anything about it? What do you mean? Q Is it scheduled yet? Baker said the first or second week in March. MS. TUTWILER: That's still where we are. Q No date yet? Is it not at the NAC in Brussels? MS. TUTWILER: Has that been publicly announced by the headquarters in Brussels? To my knowledge, it hasn't. Q I heard it on the radio yesterday. (Laughter) MS. TUTWILER: From a reliable source? Q It seems to be general knowledge in the halls of this building, and I just wondered if -- MS. TUTWILER: It does. But usually how we do things, out of diplomatic courtesy, is to let the sponsoring organization make their own announcements. Should such a meeting be announced by the sponsoring organization, yes, the Secretary has already told you that he would then envision seeing the Foreign Minister around the fringes of that meeting. Q Is the Department aware of a statement this morning, apparently by Foreign Secretary Hurd, on Iraq? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not. Someone in the Department may be, but I'm not familiar with it. Q So you don't have any comment on it? MS. TUTWILER: No. Q Margaret, yesterday, Richard didn't have a comment on Leonid Kravchuk's comments in the Ukraine that the White House should be meeting not just with Russia but with the other three nuclear powers as well. Do you, today? MS. TUTWILER: We put that out yesterday afternoon, Johanna, and I don't have anything additional to add to that. Q Margaret, could I go back to the situation in Lebanon, and the situation surrounding it? MS. TUTWILER: Yes. Q I understand that you addressed this yesterday, but I was on my way back from Moscow. MS. TUTWILER: I didn't. Richard did. Q How concerned are you about the taking of hostages as retaliation for what has happened, or other acts of terrorism? MS. TUTWILER: I really don't have anything to add to the statement that the State Department made yesterday. Richard made it. We felt there was an obligation on our part to make a public statement to make sure that people are sensitive to and alert to. There are statements that have come out from various individuals claiming they're going to, I believe, take hostages or an increase in violence. We have, in my opinion, a very steady record in this Administration -- when we have something, even when it's as vague as, for instance, you remember the times we had someone in the Philippines. So that we do not ever have another example of a double standard -- that government employees are told something that the general public is not. So it was nothing more than if we are telling our own staff to be careful and on alert, we have an obligation to tell the public, and that's what we did. Q But you're really just saying, "Be careful"? MS. TUTWILER: Right. We do not have a credible (inaudible) specific thing. Q Except for Lebanon, where you say, "Don't go there, for God sake?" MS. TUTWILER: Well, that's been -- Q Yeah, that's long standing. But it just says, even though you sweep three continents, basically, you're saying, "be careful"? MS. TUTWILER: Correct. We're making people aware of statements that have been made. And if you're doing it for your own employees, there is no double standard; then you do have an obligation to tell our public, and that's what we did. Q Do you have any comment on a report yesterday by Senators Smith and Kerry that Soviet forces in Vietnam may have executed a downed U.S. flyer? MS. TUTWILER: Not a lot. We have no independent confirmation of this report, but we are looking into it. As you may or may not know from reading the transcript, Secretary Baker addressed -- not this specific instance, but addressed U.S. POW/MIAs with President Yeltsin and Foreign Minister Kozyrev on his most recent trip Monday and Tuesday while he was in Russia. As you know, I believe Richard announced that there is a General -- I apologize; I don't have his name in front of me -- who has agreed to have some type of Russian-U.S. joint commission to look into these types of things from World War II. I know that Senator Kerry's statements, I believe, concern Vietnam. But my overall knowledge of this is that the Russian Government is being very cooperative with the American Government on tracking down these allegations and making their files and information available to us. Q But specifically on this alleged execution of an American pilot, would the State Department seek a war crimes trial for any Soviet troop who could be identified as having participated? MS. TUTWILER: You're way ahead of the system there. As I said, I have no independent confirmation of this, and that we are looking into it. Q Thank you. MS. TUTWILER: Thank you all. (Press briefing concluded at 12:32 p.m.)